On December 23rd 2018 two innocent members of the public were identified in national newspapers as being arrested on suspicion of criminal activity relating to the drone interference at Gatwick airport the prior week.
This follows the judgment in July 2018; that the BBC had breached Sir Cliff Richard’s right to privacy in identifying him as they filmed a police search of his home, when he was a suspect in relation to historic allegations of child abuse.
Both Sir Cliff, and the couple arrested in December, were entirely exonerated of any wrongdoing, yet both had their reputations tarnished and privacy violated by media coverage after being identified.
Some Members of Parliament, including Anna Soubry MP, have called for changes to the law which would make it illegal for suspects to be named before charges are brought, except when it is obviously in the interest of justice or public safety.
In May 2018, the Government opposed a law which would have required these matters to be investigated in Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry.
Appearing on BBC Surrey this morning, Hacked Off Executive Director Kyle Taylor condemned the reporting of the Gatwick couple, and highlighted the absence of independent regulation as a key factor in the invasions of privacy affecting innocent people in this way:
“What public interest is served by wrongly accusing people? If there was proper remedy and a truly independent regulator that you could raise an issue with if you had a problem with the press, then that would help to deter the press from publishing misleading information that gets away from…the public interest – so regulation has to go hand in hand with Cliff’s Law.”
On IPSO, the industry-controlled complaints-handler, Kyle Taylor said,
“They’ve never ordered an equal prominence correction against a national newspaper front page story… the Editor Emeritus of the Mail Group Peter Wright sits on it’s Complaints Committee, so if you have a problem with the Mail Group – you complain to – the Mail Group. It makes absolutely no sense.
“It’s like saying ‘oh ok I have a problem with something that’s on Facebook about me I’ll write to Mark Zukerberg’.”
Ian Murray, Executive Director of the Society of Editors, was also interviewed on the programme, and claimed that reform would represent a knee-jerk reaction, which could jeopardize democracy.
Kyle Taylor has said in response,
The Society of Editors suggest any type of responsible journalism standards is a slippery slope to living in a dictatorship. Quite the opposite. When the press spread false and misleading information they undermine the very free speech they portend to believe in. This doesn’t serve the public interest, it erodes it.”
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Hacked Off is the campaign for a free and accountable press, and we work with the victims of press abuse to achieve those aims.